Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rock Creek Trail Series

Last weekend, Great Plains Running Co's 2009 Race season kicked off with the first race of the four event Rock Creek Trail Series. I was a bit worried how many runners we might have show up for the 10K and accompanying 5K as we moved up the date of the first race by a month and half. In addition we had problems getting our brochures out on time and various issues with our web-site which have now been resolved. Despite my concerns and thanks to an absolutely beautiful morning, 75 runners made the short trip out to Perry Lake State Park for what turned out to be a very fast morning of racing. By the end of day three new course records were set as well as three new master's records.

In 2007 the Rock Creek Trail Series was created in an effort to help grow the sport of trail running in North East Kansas. Ben, Kyle and the Trail Nerds were already helping runners
in the Kansas City area discover the joy of going "off road" while the Kansas UltraRunning Society (KUS) had been going long for years. In 2006 we had just over 200 runners enter ROCK CREEK events and last year we saw that number jump to over 330. Not only were the sheer number of participants increasing, but the quality of the runners were improving as well. Over this past winter we've seen more and more runners hitting the trails and several step up to run their first Ultra. Hunter Munns (who finished second overall in the 5K) and the Sunflower Striders have recently added a trail dimension to their club and a recent article in UltraRunning magazine lists Kansas as having more Ultra finishers in 2008 then any other state in the Midwest with 339. While we were certainly not the first on the scene (KUS) or the largest (The Nerds) we are proud of the role we have been able to play these past few years in growing the sport that has given me so much.

We are equally proud of our runners! The times that were posted last Saturday are proof that the quality of trail running in our area has improved dramatically. Yes it was a beautiful, cool morning and the trail was in great shape, but I believe the real difference is experience (time on trails), training and the increased competition. Congratulations to Eric Wenrich (37:45) and Kim Deckert (49:27) on their record setting 10K victories and to Gabe Bevan (23:02) , new course record) and Kelly Hennes (27:21) in the 5K

As proud as we are of those who are setting the pace up front, we are equally proud of those folks who come out of curiosity, wonder why the miles are so hard and yet are instantly hooked. We look forward to watching them in the year ahead as they accomplish things they never thought were possible.

So, it would seem trail running in North East Kansas is alive and well, and with three of four winners coming from Topeka, it appears Topeka is developing somewhat of a trail culture, which should make for an exciting year at Rock Creek.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Although diverse in character, there are just a few places in this world I would consider near perfect. Ely, MN near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is near perfect.The beaches that make up Outer Banks of North Carolina are close to perfect. The island of Kauai, just about perfect. And for trail running, the mountains of North Central Arkansas are just about as perfect of a place as you could find.

Last week, good friend, Dave Wakefield and I along with our families headed to Mountain View, Arkansas for the fifth annual Three Days of Syllamo. A somewhat masochistic, 94 mile, three day trek through the Ozark "mountains". RD Steve Kirk prides himself on finding every foot of elevation gain available to test runners with an event that kicks off with a 50K on Friday, followed by a 50 Miler on Saturday and finishing up with a 20K on Sunday for those who are still standing. "Base Camp" for all three events is the Blanchard Springs Campground about 20 miles from Mountain View. Blanchard Springs is a spectacular setting and is only to be outdone by the beauty of the Syllamore Trail which runs out each side of the campground.

Last year Steve out did himself with the elevation charts, and after battling through the tough 50K on Friday, I was only able to manage 50K (of the planned 50 Miles) on Saturday, before struggling through Sunday's finale. This year, Steve's resourcefulness was tested by an ice storm that brought down thousands of trees, literally shutting downs the region's trail system. Not to be defeated, Steve rerouted all three races, still managing to find around 24,000 feet of elevation gain and worked with local authorities to open what trails he could.

Day one's 50K, which became a just a little more then a Marathon this year went as well as could be expected. Both my new orthodics and my new nutritional plan (Vespa and Shot Bloks) worked wonderfully. I ran it in just about 5:20 and felt like I left a lot in tank for tomorrow's 50 Miler. Dave was true to his name (Rock Star Ultrarunner) and blistered the course in 3:38 finishing second heading into day number two.

Day two's, 50 Miler is where the fun begins. First a couple chest deep water crossings in 30 degree tempertures, then heading on out onto a course with over 12,000 feet of vertical gain across it's 50 Miles. The orthodics I used on Saturday were awesome and teamed with a pair of
Brooks Cascadias my feet felt about as good as they have in a long while. Vespa continues to amaze me as I only took in about 700 calories during the 10:36 event. Big Dave ran his heart out, finishing second, some 20 minutes behind new race leader Adam Casseday of West Virginia.

My legs, now with 77 miles and nearly 40,000 feet of elevation change on them were two hurtin' units and simple things like walking to the car seemed like a monumental challenge. How would my legs feel the next morning? How would I get up and run another 20K?

The start of the 20K on the third day of this event is somewhat comical as seemingly no one wants to go out first. Slowly but surely we all "jog" across the large field near the start, hoping that by the time we hit the trail out legs will have woken up. With five runners within just ten minutes of me heading into Sunday, I make the decision to try to push my pace a bit, and after about two miles I'm surprised to find out my legs have more left then I would have imagined. I'm able to push myself through the 20K in 2:17, feeling fortunate to maintain my position and finish the event in a time of 18:14:01. Dave ran with the leader on Sunday securing second place, while Paul Schoenlaub moved up to third, giving the GPRC/Salomon team a strong showing with a second and third. Stuart Johnson also ran strong and finished in the top ten.

This is really a great event, with a great feeling of community surrounding it. Beauty, mountains without altitude, miles of great singletrack, awesome organization and helpful volunteers, what could be better? I heard one runner ask Steve Kirk "is this Heaven?" No, it's Arkansas.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The pain that keeps on giving

Well it's been a few weeks since Psycho Wyco, but the way my feet feel it could have been yesterday. The problem with my right foot has now been bothering me for over three months. I suppose I should feel fortunate that podiatrists have told me that there is nothing structurally wrong with the foot and that I can actually continue to train on it as long as I can stand the pain. The frustrating thing is that it hurts alot and does not seem to be getting any better (kinda like the economy). But just as my frustration begins to turn into concern (OK, panic) that I may not actually be able to train at the level needed in order to complete Junes Western States 100 and the subsequent 2009 Grand Slam, some good news from my podiatrist Timothy Gately.

He believes that the arthritis in the big toe (which is designed to absorb over 40% of the foots impact during the toe off phase while running) of my right foot is causing the #2 toe to bear more of the impact then it was created to endure, causing significant inflammation in the joint of that toe. While working to reduce the inflammation we are also trying out various orthodic options that will help force my foot towards the big guy at toe off. The initial reaction to the orthodics is pretty positive and this weekends Three Days of Syllamo should be a pretty good test.